Choosing to challenge the expectations of an able-bodied world

05 March 2021
Monday 8 March marks International Women’s Day. This important event provides a great opportunity to address challenges women around the world face, especially women with disabilities.

While International Women's Day exists to highlight the obstacles faced each day by women worldwide, there are increased challenges women with disabilities are also forced to confront. 

Did you know that nearly one in every five Victorian women has a disability? Some women with disabilities experience multiple layers of discrimination based on their race, age, gender and sexual orientation, as well as their disability.  

While women generally report lower incomes and higher incidences such as sexual assault and domestic violence, these numbers increase within the disabled community. A report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2020 revealed that women with disabilities are 14 percent more likely to experience physical violence after 15 years than their non-disabled peers.  

The same study revealed increased rates of sexual violence, emotional abuse, and intimate partner abuse, where a disability was present. With one in five Australian women identifying as having a physical disability, these statistics are disturbing. 

Even more disturbing are the findings within the disabled community, which highlight discrepancies between disabled men and women. Research reveals that women with disabilities are half as likely to find full-time employment and more likely to work part-time and have lower incomes. 

While we’ve highlighted the barriers women with disabilities face, we haven’t created solutions or explored the underlying reasons why these challenges are much more prevalent for women with disabilities. 

Organisations such as 1800Respect, reveal that the underlying factors contributing to these alarming statistics are complex and nuanced. Unfortunately, victims with disabilities are less likely to report violence and have fewer avenues to safety. 

Women with disabilities often report concern that they will not be taken seriously by authorities, and individuals are often dependent upon the perpetrator (financial dependence, personal care, housing, etc). The forms of abuse the disabled community lives with, are often unique to the disability itself, such as threats of institutionalisation and abuse of guide dogs. Women with intellectual disabilities may not have the resources or ability to recognise and report abuse.  

Looking at these facts objectively, we can start to understand some of the ‘whys’ behind the increased prevalence of violence and abuse among women with disabilities. This year’s International Women's Day focus is #ChoosetoChallenge. Our hope for the future is that needs and aspirations of women and girls with disabilities are taken seriously. 

We invite all of our members to challenge the outdated standards that women with disabilities have put up with for far too long. We want you to share your own obstacles and the challenges you hope to tear down in the future. 

One of the new exciting video series we will be launching this year is CP Diaries, so we can provide an outlet for adults with cerebral palsy to share their stories. Our Membership & Communications Officer, Natalie Corrigan has lived experience with cerebral palsy and is excited to be hosting the series. 

Feel free to reach out to us at cpsn@cpsn.org.au or call 1300 277 600. You can also join our Adults with Cerebral Palsy online support group.

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